When Jesus said to Peter “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18), what to you think he had in mind? I doubt that it was the vast array of buildings that we have today, ranging from the tiny chapels in small villages to the vast cathedrals in some of our cities.
The images of church in the bible are organic, they are living. The image that Jesus uses is that of a plant, where Jesus is described as a vine on which we are the branches. Our role in this image is to remain connected to the vine and to be fruitful.
St Paul and St Peter use different images to describe how they see the church. The image that Paul uses is that of the human body (1 Corinthians 12), where we are seen as the different parts that make up the body, with Jesus as the head of the body. Our role here is to fulfil the unique purpose for which we were created, so that the body is whole and healthy.
The image of the Church that Peter uses is that of a living temple (1 Peter 2:4-6). Admittedly this is an image of a building, but Peter emphasizes that it is a spiritual temple made up of living stones, and that we, as living stones, are part of that temple and that Jesus is the chief corner stone. Our role here is to fit together with our Christian brothers and sisters to form a living temple where Jesus is central and where God is glorified.
It is clear from these three images that Jesus did not come to this earth to build a religious system, nor did he see the church as a range of buildings or as a group of people coming together simply for services and meetings.
Jesus sees the church as men, women and children, each with a living, personal relationship with him and with each another; where each person is equipped to fulfil his or her role, all working together to fulfil God’s purposes in the world. As has been said before, the Church does not exist for the benefit of its members, but for the benefit of its non-members.
The church is not a building or an institution, it is you and me, working together as the body of people in whom Jesus lives and who live in him, and by whom God is glorified as we grow and become fruitful.
Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!